SOME issues cut across party politics, and even with everything going on today it is right to call on the UK Government to act and follow Scotland’s lead on this one.

Government can do many things at once and I have called in the House of Commons for action on banning gay “conversion therapy”. It staggers me still that this is legal in these islands and that conversion therapy in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity continues to take place. It is, without a doubt, a heinous form of torture which has no place in the 21st century.

According to the LGBT charity Stonewall, conversion therapy is “any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity”.

These so-called “therapies” – ranging from electrocution and castration to fraudulent “counselling” and emotional torture – operate on the absurd assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can, and should, be “cured”. It is a vile and fraudulent practice carried out by vile and fraudulent people on some of the most vulnerable in our society and can lead to lifelong emotional, and sometimes physical, trauma.

Recognising this, major health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations, including the NHS, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2017 of which the primary purpose was “the protection of the public through a commitment to ending the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK”.

The signatories agreed that “the practice of conversion therapy, whether in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, is unethical and potentially harmful”.

I suspect that many readers were, like myself, appalled to learn that this shocking practice is yet to be made illegal here in the UK. The UK Government’s failure to legislate on conversion therapy has left LGBT people inexcusably vulnerable. In 2018, Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain: Health Report found that one in 20 (5%) LGBT was pressured to access conversion therapies when accessing healthcare services.

This number rose to 8% for LGBT disabled people, 9% for LGBT people aged 18-24, 9% for black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people and 20% for trans people.

Let me state this clearly and unambiguously: conversion therapy is a dangerous and abhorrent practice which must be banned across the UK. This is not an issue to be decided by politics. It touches on our basic humanity and we cannot allow this torture to stand.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, I addressed this issue in the House of Commons and called for a debate on the matter of banning conversion therapy. I drew attention to the fact that 70% of LGBT people subjected to these practices have reported suicidal thoughts. This shocking figure demonstrates the truly vile nature of conversion therapies and highlights the urgency with which we must act to put an end to this practice.

The UK Government has indefensibly dragged its feet on this issue thus far. In 2018, it pledged to ban conversion therapy as part of its LGBT equality plan. Two years later, despite the Prime Minister having stated that the practice is “absolutely abhorrent” and “has no place in this country”, we are still waiting for the Government to deliver on its promise. Little progress has been made and conversion therapy is still not illegal.

The LGBT community deserves urgent government action to end this outdated practice which has harmed generations of LGBT people and continues to do so while the government fails to act. I welcome the work of the LGBT groups, charities and organisations which continue to campaign, including the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign and Gendered Intelligence.

IN May this year, Albania and Germany joined the growing list of countries and local jurisdictions worldwide to pass bans on gay conversion therapy, including Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan.

While limited to protecting minors under the age of 18, the German ban has introduced strong and important protections. Those who break the new law facing up to a year in prison or a €30,000 fine.

Importantly, parents and legal guardians who make their children take part in conversion therapy, whether through deception, coercion or threats, will be punished under the law. Others have also made moves recently to ban conversion therapy. Canada introduced legislation in March this year which proposes five new criminal offences related to conversion therapy.

Among them are causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, forcing a person to undergo it against their will and profiting from or advertising conversion therapy.

There is a great deal of unity across the country and the House in favour of a ban. I urge the Government to look at Germany and the proposed legislation in Canada as examples. The UK must immediately seek to introduce legislation which protects LGBT people of all ages from conversion therapies.

We cannot allow this torture to continue on our watch.